Bird nest on black background

One Poem by Maya Jewell Zeller

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All Morning I Watch God
Build Her Nest

above the blueweed, under the rim
of our house where she glides every April,
looping her parabolic glimmer of gray

with its sunstreak of golden flame and snow
melt reflecting her wings tenfold so she’s
a flock of selves. Isn’t it cliché to say

“multitudes” and “road not traveled” and even
“sky”?, though clouds make brand-new mountains
every minute, that no one notices,

as frequently as a uterus sheds
a skin of what isn’t a life. I want
to keep people out of mine.

Maybe I’m the woman in the painting
by Wood who once said, “All the good ideas
I’ve ever had came to me while I was milking

a cow.” It was the artist, not the woman,
but sometimes I think of the deceptively
simple window and its dark interior

and how there’s no way to know what’s inside.
I’ve tried prayer, crock pots, traveling abroad.
Nothing stills me like you. Have I become

the old women child-me feared, whose skin
gathered bird-watching dawns but not enough
understanding to answer God? God comes back

with a blade of grass, a slice of plastic
cigarette package, or maybe a CD wrapper,
the cover some fellow nerd in her forties

recalling a barn and the way her body
learned to be a body. Remember
when gum chewers said it’s okay to leave

these silver bits about because of those
who need to lay their small futures down, keep
them still and warm while they circle in

and out, hoping? Lately I’ve been dreaming
I have a baby with a different man
than the one I have. My abdomen

swells with the next of it. It’s mine to decide,
and this is what we all want: every night,
lying awake, watching for God in the tree.

She’s bedded down with her garbage
under the eaves— God isn’t nocturnal,
she’s a small brown thing with two blue dabs

on her wings, as if you can barely see
the sky through the small opening
of lace that’s otherwise called a door.




Maya Jewell ZellerMaya Jewell Zeller is the author of, most recently, out takes/ glove box, chosen by Eduardo Corral for the New American Poetry Prize, and the textbook Advanced Poetry: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology (Bloomsbury UK, January 2024). Maya is associate professor for Central Washington University’s MA and BA programs in Professional and Creative Writing, and affiliate faculty in the low-residency MFA Poetry and Nature Writing concentrations of Western Colorado University. She lives in the Inland Northwest with her children.

Header image by tatui suwat, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Maya Jewell Zeller by Dean Davis. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.